Privacy vs. Safety: Which Prevails When it Comes to Children’s Online Safety?
GUEST POST by Amy Williams
Today we’re going to talk about something that’s been in the news a lot lately: privacy. As adults, we expect a certain degree of independence and acknowledgement in our lives – few things are more frustrating or insulting than having other people dig through our information without permission.
Given the value we put on privacy, when – if ever – is it acceptable to violate the privacy of our children?
Safety and Privacy
Bullying remains a huge problem in our society, with more than half of all children reporting that they’ve been bullied online (or were bullies themselves). We have tried for years to properly combat bullying, and many of the standard programs haven’t succeeded – they’ve made it worse.
Now, does anyone really think the numbers would be so high if our children knew how to protect themselves? I don’t. Children are capable of remarkable things if they’re taught the right way, but the fact remains that many of them don’t understand how to stop bullies, don’t always realize that bullying others is wrong, and can often suffer for years after the fact.
As parents, we want our children to grow up strong, independent, and happy – but children aren’t going to be independent just because they’re unsupervised. This is especially true of the online world, which is rapidly becoming the tool of choice for bullies who want to destroy the social lives of their victims.
In fact, there are times when we’re part of the problem – and while this usually isn’t intentional, it does mean that we occasionally need to rethink our approaches to a given problem.
This is where privacy comes back into the picture. As parents, we often allow our children a great deal of freedom in the digital world – but all the available evidence says that they’re not being responsible with that freedom. Quite frankly, children and young teens are not mature enough to use the internet without supervision, and that means we have to keep an eye on what they’re doing.
The Problem With Privacy
It’s almost impossible to get real-time information on exactly what your child is doing online – some types of software effectively allow it, but there’s no way you could watch them at every moment and enjoy the rest of your life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day – but when we aren’t looking, kids will start doing things they shouldn’t.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to cut down on problems.
- First, require all devices to be used in a public, family area – ideally with the screen facing the rest of the house. Teens are instinctively nervous about people looking over their shoulders, even if they’re not doing anything wrong, and they’re far less likely to start bullying others if they think you could catch them at any moment.
- Next, don’t allow teens to take their smartphones into their bedrooms. They shouldn’t need to do that anyway – a better plan is requiring them to leave it out in a family area. This also helps to discourage smartphone addiction by stopping them from reaching for it every time it beeps at them – worthwhile in its own right.
- Finally, focus on teaching your child the skills they need to combat bullying on their own. It’s easy to try and rush in to solve the problem yourself, but if you do everything, then your child will never develop the skills they need to independently resolve troubles. Look at incidents of cyberbullying (and other online problems) as a chance to teach your child the best ways to act. The more they know about taking control of the situation, the happier they’ll ultimately be.
What about you? Do you think privacy or safety is more important for your own child, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
About the Guest Blogger:
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.